WHAT a time I’ve had with Rotherham United after my first two years here were pretty much a write-off.
The manager who signed me in 2014, Steve Evans, hardly ever picked me and neither did his successor, Neil Redfearn.
Neil Warnock made me part of his 12-week Championship survival miracle but then I was out in the cold again under Alan Stubbs.
It was only when the present gaffer, Paul Warne, took over after the very brief reign of Kenny Jackett in late 2016 that my Millers career truly got going.
Back then, I never dreamed of going on to have the success I’ve had in a red-and-white shirt: three League One promotions and a Papa John’s Trophy Final triumph at Wembley. It’s been unbelievable.
I’m very proud to be captain of Rotherham and feel privileged to be at a club that achieve things. Many players have good careers but never actually win anything. I’m very lucky.
I had a great time mixing with our fans at last week’s civic reception at the Town Hall to mark our latest rise to the Championship.
At one stage, I got hold of the microphone, sang the ‘Richard Wood is Magic’ song and was very pleased to hear the crowd join in.
I’m quite shy and I don’t normally do things like that but I had to come up with something to follow the gaffer’s speech.
It’s awful being next up straight after him when he’s as good at public speaking as he is. He was supposed to do a question-and-answer session but he just took the microphone and said everything in one go.
It’s nice to be appreciated by the fans and to have a song about me. I thought my speech was all right. Had you asked me to do something like that a few years ago, there’d have been no chance!
I’m not the most comfortable talker when I have an audience but I think I’m improving. I’m better when I’m speaking just to the lads in the huddle before kick-off.
This season will go down in history because a promotion and cup ‘double’ has never been achieved by a Millers side before.
The gaffer always says that success bonds you to a club forever. He played in successful sides here under Ronnie Moore and a lot of his old teammates are invited to New York Stadium these days to be corporate guests on matchdays.
That’s something that I hope happens to me a few years down the line when I’ve finished playing.
Our big aim was always a top-two spot and automatic promotion. We were underdogs with the bookies at the start of the season but over the course of the season we’ve been outstanding. The stats back that up. The league table doesn’t lie.
How do we now stay in the Champ? That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?
The gaffer has already spoken about trying to keep hold of the main players and bring new ones in. If we can keep the core of this group together I think we could do well next year.
This is the best squad I’ve been part of. Team spirit and how we are as a group goes a long way.
You look at a club like Luton Town and how well they’ve done in the Champ.
That’s what we have to try to emulate. I’m not saying we’ll make the play-offs, like Luton have done, but I genuinely believe we can consolidate our place in the division.
If you can start the season well and go on a good run you never know what might happen.
What I don’t want is another relegation. It hurt last time. It would be a massive personal achievement for me if I can help this club stay up.
It’s got to be Gillingham away when we clinched promotion on the last day of the season. The end to the game and the celebrations were unbelievable. It was better than winning the Papa John’s Trophy Final at Wembley.
The 3-0 defeat at Portsmouth wasn’t great but I’ll go for Shrewsbury Town at home when we were down to ten men and lost by the same score. I came on for the second half.
Georgie Kelly’s 89th-minute goal at Gillingham and the scenes straight after that.
Best Millers goal:
Ben Wiles’ shot at Ipswich Town that put us on the way to a 2-0 victory that took us to the top of the league was a cracker. It didn’t even make the contenders for Goal of the Season at the recent end-of-season dinner at New York Stadium but in my eyes it should have done. However, I think the one he scored at Wembley in the Papa John’s Trophy Final was even better so I’ll pick that.
Best team faced:
This answer might surprise a few people because this team didn’t finish that high in the table. I’m going for Shrewsbury. They were good at their place against us when we drew 0-0 and then again three weeks later when they left New York with all three points. Obviously, they weren’t the best side in the division, it’s just that against us they were excellent.
Toughest individual opponent:
There were a couple who I thought were very decent. George Hirst at Portsmouth was very good — sharp and mobile — and scored against us. I also rated Morecambe’s Cole Stockton. He was dangerous in the second half at New York when we won 2-0.
I’ll name two: Michael Smith and Wilesy. Smudge’s time in the pre-season mile run was very good — he nearly got under five minutes — and he also runs a fast 5k. Wilesy can keep running all day.
Smudge. He works hard in the gym, he works hard on his game. He’s really come on during his time with us and that’s because of good coaching and because he puts the effort in.
Will Grigg. He’s taken over from Dan Barlaser. Griggy has a really dry sense of humour. He’s very quick, very witty. He’s been a brilliant ‘fit’ for Rotherham United during his loan spell. The lads love him, and he’s loved it here. It showed in the last few games when he kept turning up home and away to support us even though he was injured.
As captain, I don’t allow mess! No-one dares throw a towel down or anything like that because they know I’d be straight on to them. I’m like their dad! They’d get a fine for it as well. The closest we’ve got is Joe Mattock. He isn’t actually messy but he’s forgetful and unintentionally leaves stuff everywhere.
That would be Dan. It’s a fineable offence if you allow a ball to hit the Millers badge on your training gear when you’re not on the pitch at Roundwood. The lads lie in wait for him and catch him out by throwing one at him when he least suspects it. He’s constantly having to cough up.
Angus MacDonald, even though he sometimes wears some very bad, bright tracksuits. His normal gear is very good and he wears it well.
Wes Harding. He’s another tracksuit-wearer. He makes an effort with some retro trackies he’s particularly fond of but he gets it very wrong.
Chieo Ogbene. You can hear him everywhere. He’s not loud in a bad way. His laugh can be heard everywhere.
There isn’t one really. It’s a lively dressing room. We all love being in there. Any player will tell you that the changing-room banter is one of the best parts of the job.
Dan’s the worst. Just check out his moves on the video when we’re celebrating our Papa John’s win at Wembley! He does it to make us laugh. Wes can dance and so can Chieo.